Monday, December 16, 2013

Rebuilding the Engine

Behind the Story of Critical Contingencies (Part 6)

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Critical Contingencies (formerly Certain Hypothetical) though hopefully not for future books in the series, and I recommend reading the book first.

Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing the novel, which some of you may not want to know about.

I had only written a couple of chapters when I realized I needed to completely change my approach.  Before I wrote more I went back and considered the premise solely from the perspectives of David and Kat, my new major POV characters.  And since I wasn’t going to be telling Verity and Anthony’s stories directly, I wanted to get a better grip on what they were doing over the course of the book, as part of the framework shaping the environment around David and Kat.

Once I had a basic understanding of not only what the enemy was up to, but also what Miles' team was doing as they put his plan into action, I was ready to discover how David and Kat would deal with it all.

Before I wrote new material, I took a hard look at what I’d already written.  My original first chapter was a long one, with a point-of-view from each of the four characters on that one night – the one where everything changed.  There was little there I wanted to keep.

David and Kat only had vignettes to show what their normal lives were like before the compound was sealed, but there was nothing there but character study.  And I wanted to study their characters as they reacted to change, not as static portraits.  So I tossed those scenes in the trash.

While I liked Verity’s scene, it was far too spoilery now that I'd decided to tell the story from David and Kat’s uninformed points-of-view.  So that had to go too.

The only scene to survive was the first, what became the prologue, where Anthony sneaks back into the compound to deliver the bad news to Miles.  I needed to revise this to be a little more coy about what was actually happening – then I had a good hook to kick off the larger story.

This was necessary because the next chapter (what became ‘Chapter 1’) started slowly with David gradually realizing something was wrong.  By turning Anthony’s initial scene into a prologue, I not only had more action to open the story but I had a bit of a tease to create some mystery about the big change that was unfolding.

This helped create the right atmosphere for the first chapter with David.  He'd find out what was afoot bit by bit, and hopefully the reader would be right there with him.

After rewriting my new prologue and chapter one, I was ready to begin writing new material again – with Kat’s first scene.  Now that the reader would have a better understanding of what was happening with the larger story, I could approach Kat's introduction in a way appropriate for her character.

Next:  Part 7 – Begin the Begin

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